Steps to Apply for Veterans Benefits Through the VA

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has outlined eight steps that you must follow to apply for veterans benefits. While the process may seem relatively standard, each case that submitted to the VA is unique, meaning approval times and procedures may vary on a case-to-case basis.

Step 1 to Apply for Veterans Benefits: Your Claim Is Received

After sending your veterans benefits application online or through the mail, you will receive confirmation from the VA that your application has been received. If you don’t, you can call your local regional office and request an update by phone. If you applied online through the VA’s eBenefits system, you can sign in at any time to check your claim’s status.

Step 2 to Apply for Veterans Benefits: Claim Is Under Review

Once your claim has been received, it will be assigned to a representative from the VA. This representative is tasked with the responsibility of determining if all the evidence needed to support your claim has been provided. If additional material is required to support your request for disability benefits from the VA, your application will move on to the step 3 of the process outlined here. If the VA already has everything needed to make a determination decision in your case, then your claim moves to step 5 of the application process.

Step 3 to Apply for Veterans Benefits: Gathering of Evidence

What happens when the VA representative assigned to your claim cannot make a determination decision yet involving your application? If your representative needs additional medical evidence before approving or rejecting your disability claim, you’ll receive notice. In most cases, you can submit additional medical records as evidence supporting your disability benefits request. While this step may go faster if you’re being treated at a VA healthcare facility, private doctors should also know which forms you’ll need to submit this request. In some cases, you may need to undergo a second medical exam at a VA-approved facility before your claim can move forward.

Step 4 to Apply for Veterans Benefits: Review of Evidence

In this stage, the VA will review all the evidence you have provided and determine if more documented evidence is needed to prove your disability is service-connected or truly prevents you from working. If more evidence will be needed to support your claim, it will be sent back to step 3 of the process. The best way to avoid getting your claim delayed by additional medical evidence requests is to have a VA-accredited attorney review your claim paperwork before you apply.

Step 5 to Apply for Veterans Benefits: Decision Preparation

In this step, a VA claims representative will begin preparing a determination decision regarding your benefits application. Your assigned representative may begin filling out the required paperwork to approve your claim or ask you to provide more evidence (see Step 3). Due to the claims inventory and backlog numbers, you may wait several months before hearing whether your VA disability claim’s approved or denied.

Step 6 to Apply for Veterans Benefits: Pending Decision

Once your claim reaches this step, the recommendation made on your claim will be reviewed and a decision will be reached. Similar to the previous step, if the VA’s medical examiner feels additional medical evidence is needed, your claim may move back to step 3 in the application process. You may also need to have an independent medical examination confirming your disability before your claim can be approved. However, once the VA makes a determination decision, you typically receive notice in writing regarding your claim’s status.

Step 7 to Apply for Veterans Benefits: Notification Preparation

When your disability claim is done pending, a packet will be prepared outlining the details of the VA’s decision. Even if you submitted your disability benefits claim online through the eBenefits portal, the VA always notifies you about status updates by mail. Be sure to save a copy for your records in case you end up having to appeal an unfavorable decision from the VA.

Step 8 to Apply for Veterans Benefits: Decision Completion

This is the final step in the VA disability benefits application process. The package detailing the VA’s decision concerning your claim will be sent to you through the mail. This package will outline your disability rating (listed as a percentage ranked from 10% to 100%), approval or denial status and expected benefits start date.

An Experienced Attorney Can Help You Apply for Veterans Benefits

Many disabled veterans find the VA application process frustrating, confusing or both. The paperwork is often complicated, and denied applications take a heavy toll, both emotionally and financially. Veterans often cannot afford delayed benefits and struggle to find the strength to appeal their denied disability benefits claims. The best way to ensure you get the most disability benefits you’re rightfully owed from the VA is to consult an attorney about your claim.

Our network of experienced disability advocates and attorneys are happy to review your initial claim paperwork before you apply to ensure it’s free of basic errors. A surprising number of qualified claimants are denied benefits every year due to these accidental errors, which is called a “technical denial.” However, 82% of disabled vets who have attorneys submit their claims or represent them during the appeals process eventually prevail. In fact, most disabled vets win any benefits they’re rightfully owed at the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) hearing stage. Unfortunately, waiting for an ALJ appeals hearing date can take more than a year. Having an attorney or disability advocate help with your claim may help you speed up the benefits application process and win the most benefits you qualify for faster and easier than when applying on your own.

If you need help with your veterans benefits application or are preparing to appeal an unfavorable decision, you may qualify for legal representation. Click the button below to see if you may qualify for legal assistance and start your free benefits evaluation now.

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